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British online streaming service Walter Presents, which focuses on curated foreign-language drama series and has developed a loyal following amid growing demand for high-end series from around the world, is coming to the U.S. in March.
Walter Presents launched in the U.K. in January 2016 as a venture of Britain’s Channel 4, which owns a majority stake in it, and Global Series Network with an advertising-based VOD model that has seen it attract millions of video views as part of Channel 4’s on-demand service All 4.
In the U.S., it will be offered as an advertising-free subscription VOD service for $6.99 per month.
In unveiling the jump across the Atlantic, the companies on Tuesday promised to provide “award-winning, top rated, exclusive and original first-run drama series from around the world to U.S. audiences with an appetite for quality TV content.”
The service will be available in the U.S. on various platforms and at WalterPresents.com and will launch with 34 series from 12 countries, including Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Norway and the Netherlands. It will then premiere two new series each month. Overall, it aims to host more than 500 hours of programming in its first year in the U.S.
Among the shows available at launch will be Spin, billed as the French House of Cards, and Norwegian hit thriller Valkyrien, about a surgeon who agrees to treat patients from the criminal underworld in return for the use of secret facilities that may help cure his dying wife. Each season will be available in its entirety, allowing viewers to binge watch, with the service also allowing for customized subtitling.
The service is named after its founder, Walter Iuzzolino, an Italy-born former TV executive who quit his job to make TV watching his full-time focus and who handpicks every series available on it.
“For years, America has led the way with a string of iconic titles to become the undisputed home of great TV drama. But the rest of the world hasn’t stood still,” said Iuzzolino. “Inspired by the quality of the very best U.S. drama, countries all over the globe are now producing extraordinary TV series, unforgettable stories, which are becoming global smash hits. I am excited at the chance to introduce U.S. viewers to this TV treasure trove.”
The U.S. is only the first target for the partners behind the service and represents Channel 4’s first major investment outside of the U.K. The partners plan to roll out Walter Presents to other international markets in the next year and more after that.
“Channel 4 has always been at the forefront of breaking new ground in creating and distributing award-winning content,” said Channel 4 CEO David Abraham. “Our partnership with Global Series Network making Walter Presents a phenomenal success in the U.K. has proved there is a significant market for exceptional non-English subtitled drama, and I’m sure U.S. viewers will be equally attracted to its rich content offerings from across the globe.”
Jason Thorp, CEO of Global Series Network, said: “The niche SVOD market has huge potential for growth, and the U.S. is the perfect starting place for Walter Presents’ international rollout. We’ve developed a strong, smart standout brand, cleverly curated with a proven performance track record, and we’re confident it will strike a chord with U.S. audiences.”
While the partners are not sharing any subscriber targets for the U.S., Abraham told THR that there is room for and interest in niche services in the U.S. beyond streaming giants Netflix and Amazon. “We know that consumers are comfortable subscribing to multiple services. We have done our homework on the appetite for well-targeted niche services in a market with over 300 million people,” he said. “In the U.K., it’s worked under a slightly different model. The U.S. market is many times bigger. If you start in the U.S., clearly one goes with a model that is self-standing from the get-go, which leads you to the SVOD approach.”
“The U.S. is an extremely significant and dynamic market opportunity, and it’s a very diverse country with a lot of people from different backgrounds with an interest in international content,” he added, also highlighting that the price tag means that “people are free to dip in and out.”
What is the key to success for the new SVOD service? “The thing about the Walter Presents proposition is the combination of the quality of the content, the exclusivity and the elegance and the power of the brand itself,” said Abraham. “We together developed the idea that the best advocate of this proposition is Walter himself. Initially, he was a bit reluctant to be the face of the brand, but we did some tests, and he got comfortable with it. It is such an authentic brand idea that audiences have really related to. It’s also practical. You want to watch those video introductions that he does to decide whether you want to invest eight or 10 hours of your life in a program. I have very high hopes that Walter will also resonate among U.S. audiences.”
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